HP’s head of marketing for its European Graphics Solutions Business (GSB) is Michael Smetana, a civil engineer by training, an IT whizz and a man with a passion for print. What more could you ask? He describes himself as an “IT executive with over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing”. His is a rare combination of experience and enthusiasm for graphics, and he’s using it to expand HP GSB’s realm of interest.
Early years as a civil engineer working in building construction got Smetana interested in Autodesk and Nemetschek CAD software. This fuelled a nascent fascination with computing and early workstation technologies, such as Sun workstations and the Apollo/Domain workstations. This was a time of proprietary systems, when the only option for robust office computing power was the UNIX operating systems (standalone desktop computers were still too feeble for professional applications).
In 1991 some two years after HP had acquired Apollo, Smetana was headhunted by HP to sell Unix workstations and Novell networks, the foundations for shared local area networks. The combination was a primary factor in the move away from mainframe computing and Smetana’s brief included wider computing and printing technologies. He explained: “While I learned a lot about operating systems, computing architecture and networking in the early days, I was mostly fascinated by HP's printing technology – laser and thermal ink.” He installed the first HP Designjet in Austria in 1991 and in the process the digital print bug took hold because, it “was fascinating to see such a high-performance pen plotter”.